1602 is a must have book for any serious Marvel comics enthusiast. The hardcover trade volume contains all eight of the original Marvel 1602 stories, in addition to a Foreword by Peter Sanderson (pop. Culture critic and comic historian), an Afterword by Neil Gaiman himself, and a copy of some of the original script accompanied by some Andy Kubert sketches. The total package is a great addition to any comic library.
Gaiman takes the iconic spandex clad superheroes of the “Silver Age” (1960’s) and strategically places them in 17’th century Europe. Everyone from the original X-Men to Daredevil can be found somewhere within Gaiman’s tale. At first glance this idea might present as being rather stupid. I mean, what change does the Spanish Inquisition have against people who can shoot lasers out of their eyes? Thing is, it works very well. Gone are the origin stories involving radioactive spiders and cosmic space accidents. Instead, these origin stories are replaced with well placed and historically accurate tales of magic and science. There is no question Gaiman did his homework for this series. It could be used to teach 17’th century history in school!
Despite comic readers sharing history with many of the characters, and being familiar with the time period there are many twists and turns to be had in this well crafted story. Gaiman carefully places all of our favourite heroes in different, historically significant, situations. Queen Elizabeth the first’s court for instance, is headed up by none other than Sir Nicholas Fury. Fury is assisted by a young boy named Peter Parquagh, and so on. And while the opportunity for the whole story to come across as cliché, Gaiman skilfully pulls it all together so that it is not just entertaining, but it is authentic and original. Throw in a classic villain like Count Otto von Doom “The Handsome”, and you have yourself a regular comic book event!
The art matches the script well, which says a lot coming from me, being I am not a real huge fan of Andy Kubert. The extra sketches provided in the back are actually very beautiful.
I know I am probably starting to sound like a broken record, but this is a must have for any collection. The Steve Rogers surprise is worth it alone.